with Tobi Raji

Good Friday morning. You made it. Thanks for waking up with the Power Up newsletter – have a lovely weekend and we'll see you on Monday. 

On the Hill

RECONCILING THE RECONCILIATION PROCESS: When President Biden met with a handful of Republican and Democratic senators negotiating the bipartisan infrastructure agreement in June in the Oval Office, he made a promise not to “double dip," as Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) phrased it. 

That meant that money set aside in the Democrats larger spending bill could not simply build on the bipartisan group's $1 trillion bill that passed the Senate earlier this month. 

Biden's promise will be tested next week when the House returns to take up the $3.5 trillion budget resolution, and there are already signs that House Democrats might not be willing to abide by the agreement hashed out by the president and lawmakers in the upper chamber. 

House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who has been critical of the Senate bill, told Power Up on Wednesday during a Washington Post Live event that he plans on pushing for more funding for high-speed rail during the markup of the reconciliation package:

  • "Well, I didn't sign that agreement,” he told us. “In fact, I don't believe anybody in the majority in the Senate, except for a couple of Senators, signed off on that agreement. We're working with the White House to see if there are ways around it," including "looking at creating new programs that are not the same as the ones that were funded there."
  • “There are projects proposed in a number of major cities in America where the high-speed rail would go into the city center — that's not in the Senate bill, so I think that's a new program,” he said. “It's a different program; it's not double dipping.”
  • DeFazio also called out transit-related items “left on the cutting room floor” in the Senate bipartisan bill, including funding for “green infrastructure in wastewater,” carbon reduction, and electric vehicle charging. 

In a letter to colleagues, reported by Politico's Heather Caygle, DeFazio made clear that he plans to “work to remedy the largest flaws of the Senate's bipartisan infrastructure bill” through the reconciliation process. 

  • “I intend to focus on programs that reduce carbon emissions from surface transportation, aviation and ports, restore transit funding, reconnect neighborhoods, robustly fund high-speed rail, and ensure climate-resilient and affordable investments in our crumbling wastewater infrastructure,” DeFazio wrote in the letter obtained by Caygle. 

DeFazio would not tell us whether he'd vote for the bipartisan bill in it's current form but later in the day, he was far more blunt, saying he was “unwilling at this point to pass this bill without some changes” in an interview with the American Council of Engineering Companies. 

As it stands, House Democratic leaders are planning to move ahead with a vote advancing the $3.5 trillion framework next week, despite threats from centrist Democrats who have said they'll vote against that legislation without a vote first on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Will they flip by the time they make it back to Washington? 

In the agencies

JULY CABLE PREDICTED KABUL COLLAPSE: “An internal State Department memo last month warned top agency officials of the potential collapse of Kabul soon after the U.S.’s Aug. 31 troop withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan,” the Wall Street Journal’s Vivian Salama scooped.

  • “The classified cable represents the clearest evidence yet that the administration had been warned by its own officials on the ground that the Taliban’s advance was imminent and Afghanistan’s military may be unable to stop it.”
  • “In all, 23 U.S. Embassy staffers, all Americans, signed the July 13 cable … [which was] sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Director of Policy Planning Salman Ahmed.”
  • “The signatories of the dissent channel cable urged the State Department to begin registering and collecting personal data in advance for all Afghans who qualify for Special Immigrant Visas, aimed at those who worked as translators or interpreters; locally employed embassy staff; and for those eligible for other U.S. refugee programs while there was still six weeks left before the withdrawal deadline.”

Washington’s mess: “The existence of the confidential State Department cable adds to an expanding debate involving the White House, Pentagon and intelligence services over what U.S. officials understood about assessments of Afghanistan’s stability.”

  • “The drumbeat of warnings over the summer raise questions about why Biden administration officials, and military planners in Afghanistan, seemed ill-prepared to deal with the Taliban’s final push into Kabul, including a failure to ensure security at the main airport and rushing thousands more troops back to the country to protect the United States’ final exit,” the New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes and Adam Goldman write.
A total of four U.S. presidents have presided over the war in Afghanistan. Here’s how messaging about the conflict evolved over two decades. (Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

“From the moment President Biden decided to end the war in Afghanistan, he made it clear to the Pentagon that his top priority was to keep U.S. fatalities to a minimum, a decision that necessitated a speedy withdrawal,” senior U.S. officials told our Post colleagues Greg Jaffe and Dan Lamothe.

  • “On those terms, the mission has so far been a success. There have been zero U.S. civilian or military deaths. But the focus on the safety of U.S. service members made other war goals, such as the long-term survival of the Afghan forces and the evacuation of Afghan interpreters, lower priorities and helped precipitate some of the current problems the United States faces in Afghanistan.”
  • The result? “Tens of thousands of Afghan grunts, commandos and spies who fought to the end, despite the talk in Washington that the Afghan forces simply gave up, have been left behind,” per the New York Times’ Matthew Rosenberg. “They are now on the run, hiding and hunted by the Taliban.”
  • “‘There’s no way out,’ said Farid, an Afghan commando, in a text message to an American soldier who fought with him. Farid, who agreed to be identified by his first name only, said he was hiding in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, trapped after the regular army units surrendered around him. ‘I am praying to be saved.’”

The investigations

THE HILL’S TRAUMATIC YEAR: “For the third time in eight months, Washington was brought to a standstill Thursday as the seat of the U.S. government came under the threat of violence, this time from a man who parked a truck near the Capitol, demanded to speak with Biden about a range of grievances and threatened to destroy two blocks of the nation’s capital with an explosive device,” per our colleagues Lizzie Johnson, Meagan Flynn, Antonio Olivo and Peter Jamison.

“Congress is not in session this week. But many legislative aides and other government employees were working, and the rushed evacuation evoked memories of the violent storming of the Capitol just over seven months ago by a mob seeking to overturn the electoral defeat of [former] president Donald Trump.”

  • “While the Capitol has worked to return to normal, including recently taking down the fences surrounding the complex, many of the people working in the complex continue to grapple with lingering trauma from both the Jan. 6 riot and the death of a Capitol Hill officer in early April,” the New York Times’ Emily Cochrane and Maria Cramer write.
  • “Washington has long been subject to isolated, dramatic threats from American citizens,” Johnson, Flynn, Olivo and Jamison write. “In 1982 a man was shot by police after he threatened to blow up the Washington Monument unless a ban on nuclear weapons was prioritized. In 2003 a tobacco farmer unhappy with federal policy drove his tractor into a pond on the Mall, threatened to detonate explosives and engaged in a 47-hour standoff with police before surrendering.”
  • “But since the Capitol was breached on Jan. 6, a different and more severe unease has settled over the nation’s capital, born of a growing sense that political violence — or the threat of it — may now be a recurring aspect of life.”

CASE CLOSED ON VOTING RIGHTS: “The Texas House reached a quorum Thursday for the first time since July, clearing the way for new voting restrictions to pass after a record-breaking Democratic boycott had stalled the bill for weeks, creating a standoff with Republicans who sought the arrest of absent members,” our colleagues Eva Ruth Moravec and Elise Viebeck report.

  • “Thursday’s session effectively ended the months-long Democratic protest over the voting measure — at least for now.”

In the media